“My father was not a storyteller,” says Maria Testa, author of the critically acclaimed poetic novels Something About America, Almost Forever, and Becoming Joe DiMaggio. “Our family was not the kind that sat on the front porch, sipping lemonade and listening to the elders reminisce. We were doers and did not spend a lot of time on verbal reflection.”
How then, did Maria Testa come to write three deeply affecting novels? Her novel Something About America was inspired by true events in Lewiston, Maine. Narrated by a young daughter from Kosova, this nuanced and deeply moving tale explores immigration in contemporary America.
Previously, Maria Testa has found inspiration from her family history. “Sometime, without remembering when, exactly, I learned about my father’s life before me, before Vietnam, before medical school,” she says of Becoming Joe DiMaggio, which takes readers back to the summer of 1936. “Maybe it was in the car, out in the yard playing catch or pulling weeds, at the dinner table, or between the innings of a Yankees game on television. Somehow, without remembering how, exactly, I learned about a radio, a garden, a grandfather, and Joe DiMaggio. So maybe my father was a storyteller after all.”
With Almost Forever, Maria Testa moves ahead to the 1960s to evoke—through the eyes of a six-year-old girl—the experience of seeing one’s father march off to Vietnam to serve a year in the U.S. Army Medical Corps. “It is a tribute to the children of Vietnam veterans and to those who did not come home from war,” she says. “It is my hope that we can always remember ourselves as children, so as not to forget the new generation of young people still waiting for the end of forever.”
The recipient of a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Work-in-Progress Grant for Becoming Joe DiMaggio, Maria Testa has garnered extraordinary praise for her spare, gripping novels. “Powerfully moving, as it braids together baseball, family, and the Italian-American experience,” said Booklist in a starred review of the novel, which was selected as an American Library Association Notable Book for Children, an International Reading Association Children’s Choice, and a Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Winner, among other accolades. In a starred review for Almost Forever, Kirkus Reviews calls the novel “A tour de force. . . . Rapt readers don’t need to know anything about Vietnam to understand love, loss, fear, and waiting.”
Maria Testa has written three picture books for children and a collection of short stories for young adults. She is also the author of another book about baseball, Some Kind of Pride, which was awarded the Marguerite De Angeli Prize for a first middle-grade novel. Maria Testa grew up in Rhode Island and now lives in Portland, Maine, with her family.